The timeless question pastors, parents, spouses and employers have asked throughout history is…
“How many times must I repeat my message before people remember it?”
This age old question has been answered in a variety of ways over time. I like how Thomas Smith, a British businessman, answered this question in his 1885 book entitled Successful Advertising. This book is best remembered for his 20-step plan for getting people to buy a product. He says…
The first time people look at any given ad, they don’t even see it.
The second time, they don’t notice it.
The third time, they are aware it is there.
The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense they’ve seen it somewhere before.
The fifth time, they actually read the ad.
The sixth time, they thumb their nose at it.
The seventh time, they get a little irritated with it.
The eighth time, they think, “Here’s that confounded ad again.”
The ninth time, they wonder if they’re missing out on something.
The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbors if they’ve tried it.
The eleventh time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
The twelfth time, they think it must be a good product.
The thirteenth time, they feel the product has value.
The fourteenth time, they remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.
The fifteenth time, they yearn for it because they can’t afford to buy it.
The sixteenth time, they accept the fact they will buy it sometime in the future.
The seventeenth time, they make a note to buy the product.
The eighteenth time, they curse their poverty for not allowing them to buy this terrific product.
The nineteenth time, they count their money very carefully.
The twentieth time prospects see the ad, they buy what it is offering.
The process for creating, maintaining or shifting our churches towards a disciple-making culture is really no different than Smith’s plan for successful advertising. The more frequently our congregations hear Jesus’ plan for discipleship, the more they personalize their need and desire for discipleship to become a priority in their lives. I’d like to share two valuable lessons I’ve learned about using preaching to consistently cast vision for discipleship from the pulpit.
Preaching from the pulpit should always…
(1) Reinforce discipleship, but never replace it.
Our sermons should always point to Jesus, but never replace the work of intentionally walking in relationship with our listeners. While we are not making disciples from the pulpit, we should be reinforcing the mission Jesus gave His followers to go and make disciples. I like how the Real-Life Discipleship Training Manual has addressed this concept.
“When asked how they are doing with discipleship, many church leaders say something like this: ‘I make disciples every week. Three hundred people come to hear me preach God’s word every Sunday.’ Yet Jesus did not say in Matthew 4:19, ‘I am inviting you to be my disciples, so grab a pew and a pen. This week we’re starting a four-part series on discipleship.’ We cannot change the definition of discipleship to (1) sit and (2) listen, and then expect to make disciples as Jesus did.” (Putman, Jim; Willis Jr., Avery T.; Guindon, Brandon;Krause, Bill. Real-Life Discipleship Training Manual; Equipping Disciples Who Make Disciples. NavPress.)
(2) Provide clear application for our listeners.
I find an increasing number of pastors coming out of seminary who, having been trained in the interpretation of Scripture, struggle to help others understand how to apply Scripture to their lives. This is critical for us to grasp because we were never called to make church attendees or listeners of mediocre sermons, but disciples of Jesus. James 1:22 implores us to not “just listen to God’s Word” but to “do what it says”. Far too many people walk out of worship services unsure what to do with the sermon they spent thirty minutes
We must consistently keep the vision of discipleship before our congregations as we continuously preach a clear, obedient application of God’s Word.
The pulpit is a powerful tool when used to bolster the call of discipleship in our gatherings!
by Chris Knight- Senior Pastor
Wakarusa Missionary Church